The steam surrounding me escapes through the open shower door. Stepping out, I am hit by a wall of cold air. My reflection catches me off guard and I shudder. There is a grown up staring back at me. As I reach for my towel, jarring nostalgia takes over.
I am six again. It’s bath time, and I watch my mother unplug the drain. The residue of the day, which was once on my skin, swirls into the abyss. I watch as my bath toys reach the bottom of the tub, along with my whole body. I am no longer suspended in water. My mother takes my hand and reminds me to be careful when exiting the bath. “Biiiiig step...good girl!” She grabs a towel hanging nearby and wraps it around my body, engulfing me in her warmth. It is soft and safe. She covers my eyes with the towel, as if to tease me. She is my sight.
My mother moves the towel up to the crown of my head, and ruffles my hair with the cloth. She dries it, messily, so I don’t drip bath water all over my pajamas. She holds out my pant legs, one at a time, and I step in. I grab her shoulder for balance. She steadies me. Next comes the shirt. “Arms up,” she calls, and I obey. I know what comes next, and sit on the closed toilet seat. She takes out a big comb and begins at my ends. It glides through my hair, and we smile at one another.
My hair is smooth and carries the scent of green apples. My mother scoops me up off of the toilet seat, dancing her way to my bed. She spins, and steps, and sways me in her arms to the beat of a tune only we can hear. I giggle, which turns into a bigger laugh. I laugh, and I laugh, and I can’t stop until she places me down into my bed. “I shouldn’t get you all riled up before bedtime,” she has a sly grin on her face. She kisses me on each cheek. “I love you, kitten.”
“I love you more, mama.”
“You couldn’t even try.” She turns out the lights, and leaves the door open, just a crack. Exactly how I like it.
And I’m cold again. My stomach aches with affection for my childhood. It feels so far away now...how did I get here so quickly?
I will never be overcome with the same excitement when walking into a toy shop. I will never run around for hours without sweating. I will never have another bath time. These things, which once consumed my life, have come and gone, and I have been oblivious. The worst part is that this thought, this revelation, officially means I have grown out of my childhood. I have passed a milestone, in this very second.
I place my towel over my head, burying my face in the fibers. It is dark, but not the safe way it felt all those years ago. This time it is isolating, lonely. Tears slide down my cheek into the towel. These tears escalate, turning into a windsucking sob. There is no one here to be my sight.